DUNEDIN — Deep within the Dunedin Cemetery, Bob Hackworth perches on a golfing cart. The graveyard is the least complicated conference issue to wedge into the mysterious acres of brush and trees.

I’ve driven past this a hundred situations, down Keene Highway and Virginia Avenue on the way to Publix and the bank, on school operates and household visits. I have buzzed by Pinellas County’s most prized undeveloped home without the need of a great deal worry for what’s again there.

This summer months, the Douglas Hackworth home was on the brink of bulldoze. Now, its long term stays unsure. It is quick to get dropped in quantities and discounts, legal professionals and trustees.

But on this attractive November day, Bob has invited me to see what’s genuinely on the line.

I really do not know Bob. But I know Bob in that townie way. I realize him from the health club, where by he won the pounds reduction challenge. He life in my neighborhood. His large school English trainer owned my property. That’s how items go all over right here.

When he was a town commissioner and mayor of Dunedin in the 2000s, preservation was his intention. It was historically the nearby way, governments defending land — Hammock and Weaver parks, Caladesi and Honeymoon islands.

“To me, it was, get your hands on anything you can to protect it,” he suggests, branches crunching beneath the wheels.

He considered that would apply to his stepmother’s land. Philanthropist Gladys Douglas experienced been doing the job to assure it was preserved but did not set that stipulation in her will. She required proceeds to go to relatives and causes close to the arts, religion and drugs. Towards the conclude, she was too ill to negotiate.

Soon after she died in 2019, the land’s price was far too significant for the county or city to make an present. In August, Pulte Households entered a $14.5 million contract and started off the major equipment.

Tracey McManus of the Situations first documented this, igniting a grassroots work. Citizens rallied. Anti-advancement posters popped up future to presidential campaign signals. Pulte backed out.

“Local information turned this from a tragedy, a lost chance,” Bob reported. “We’re back again to owning a prospect.”

The estate’s attorney is providing nearby governments until eventually Jan. 18 to make an supply, centered on a new appraisal coming shortly. Dunedin has pledged $2 million. An nameless donor this week gave an additional $2 million, and scaled-down amounts are coming in. The county, functioning with a confined price range for the up coming ten years, will have to foot some of the bill.

Pulte Households did Bob at least one particular favor, clearing a route for his golfing cart. When he took people today again here ahead of, it was with a machete.

He drives earlier yellow wildflowers, leafy pines and oaks, up to a patch of the final habitat of elevated rosemary bald in the county. A minty layer of lichen coats the ground. A hundred gopher tortoises burrow unseen.

The Gladys Douglas Hackworth property contains 44 acres of woods.
The Gladys Douglas Hackworth property has 44 acres of woods. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

Down the road, there is a principal dwelling wherever 90-year-aged Bob Hackworth Sr. continue to lives. “Dad’s in there somewhere,” Bob claims. It is a solid household, not ostentatious despite an enviable tennis court docket. Around the corner, there is a mobile household for the land’s caretaker and his wife.

Two major puppies, Tucker and Ridge, trot up to the golf cart. Tucker hops on for a ride. A girthy rescue pig named Bacon wiggles absent. He does not much treatment for individuals.

Remnants of the many years mix with mother nature — teetering sheds, a rusted basic auto with sprouting vegetation. There is a set of beehives a area keeper requested to retail store. Bob pics the bees currently being a neat attraction in a park.

“We get a jar of honey out of that deal,” Bob says.

We get to Jerry Lake, a 55-acre freshwater jewel that feeds into Curlew Creek. Douglas bought it to the Southwest Florida Drinking water Administration District in 1986. In the existing proposal, the city would consider around the lake and incorporate it with the land, producing a 100-acre maintain.

The assumed is spectacular. Picnics by the lake. Kayaking. Character trails. It’s so silent again below, despite the chaotic streets framing the perimeter.

Caretaker Ron Aurandt fires up a boat, and we climb in.

Bob states I’m only the 30th human being to be on the lake due to the fact the relatives owned the home. That helps make me unhappy. Condos are great. New homes are good. Acquiring obtain to a non-public lake if you have income is pleasant. But are not we by now surrounded by lots of stucco and brick and tile?

When is it enough?

As the grasses sway about us, Captain Ron slows the boat. He points to a Fantastic Blue Heron, high up in a tree with a velvet neck extending into the sunshine. I fumble to get a photograph, but in an quick, it slips absent.

Connected: HOW TO Support: You can donate to the Pinellas Community Foundation’s fundraising webpage for the Gladys Douglas residence listed here
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